Age at diagnosis: 12
Brief outline: Sara, age 26, experienced depression beginning in middle school and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in her late teens. She still struggles with both issues. Her daughter makes her feel important and happy, and her fiancé and other family members are good sources of support. Once her baby is born, she hopes to finish her veterinarian training.
Background: Sara is the mother of a young daughter and was pregnant at the time of her interview. She has been living with her daughter and fiancé in various places, none of them permanent. She is Caucasian.
Depression has been part of Sara’s life since she was 12 years old, though recalling her earlier childhood she remembers isolation and wonders if there was “something there”. When she was in middle school, boys at school made fun of her and she became intensely self-consciousness about her body. Her self-esteem was also low, and she found it hard to break out of negative thought patterns. Her mother “didn’t want to believe there was an issue” so she didn’t get treatment until she was 18 and able to seek help on her own.
Sara had difficult relationships with her parents and siblings. Her grandmother really understood her, and when as a teenager she went to live at her grandma’s house it was “a good place to be” – a place where she could find herself and get herself better. Her pets were also a big source of comfort and joy. At 19 Sara gave birth to her daughter. Immediately afterwards she experienced her worst period ever, struggling with postpartum depression, the abuse she suffered from the baby’s father, and difficulty bonding with her child. That new “low” also led to help, first from the doctor who cared for her during pregnancy and childbirth and gave her medication, and then also from a therapist. As Sara’s depression lessened, she soon formed a strong and inspiring connection with her daughter, the “absolutely amazing gift that God gave me and that I created”.
When Sara began medication, she found she was more social with other people and capable of getting involved in activities of various kinds. She began college, and worked with her daughter’s Girl Scout troupe. Therapy has also been essential, giving her tools like journaling (writing down her thoughts) to deal with both depression and the anxiety that sometimes comes along with it for Sara. Over seven years of therapy she has had two therapists; both have been excellent. Sara is now expecting a second baby, and has a loving and supportive fiancé who also struggles with depression and really understands her. They are “couch surfing” and struggling financially, but hope to find a stable place to live before the baby comes.
For Sara, journaling is a powerful tool to combat depression, “…the best suggestion I ever got from my therapist…. Even if you don’t have somebody to talk to right then, you can just write down your thoughts and it helps. So I think that’s a big thing because not many people realize that they can just write down what you’re thinking and just move on from there. And then you can even save it and realize like, ‘Oh, I got through that day. That was a really hard day. I got through that day though, so I get through this. It’s no problem.’” She wishes she had been able to get medication and therapy earlier, and advises other people to get this help if they can.
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